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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Fire Safety Education in Libraries: Example Programs

This guide is designed to help libraries and fire departments come together to create fire safety outreach programming in the local library.

The program ideas on this page are only ideas. Your library and fire department know your community so you know what your neighbors need. Please feel free to use any of these ideas that work for your community.

Programs for Children

Firefighters know well that children are not immune to the dangers of fires. Children need to learn how to spot a fire hazard, what to do to stay safe in a fire, how to get to safety, and whom to call for help. 


Photo courtesy of the USFA.

Storytime

Storytime is a natural fit for fire safety education for children. Having a firefighter read the children a story helps to familiarize children with their local fire department.

Trucks

Children love trucks and big vehicles, so bringing one of the fire trucks to the library's parking lot to let kids see what the lights, sirens, and equipment looks like is a great way to engage them in fire safety education. It also familiarizes children with your department and vehicles so they know that they can trust firefighters to help them in an emergency.

Summer Reading Program: Campfires

Many families go camping during the summer and that presents the potential for wildfires. A collaborative program between the library's summer reading program and the fire department could teach children how to ensure their family puts out its campfire safely. The program could also  teach children how to safely escape a wildfire.

Homeschool Groups

If your public library has a homeschool group, fire safety programming could be welcome there as well. If it doesn't, homeschooled children should still be included in programming at their public library, and a local homeschool group may be a good partner in getting the word out about programming.

Holidays

Consider including fire safety in your holiday programming, especially around Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Holidays often involve flammable decorations and candles, and eagle-eyed kids can help watch out for times when those come too close together.

Programs for Teens

Though many teens may have learned fire safety as children, they may no longer remember what they were taught. Further, teens are often responsible for younger siblings, babysitting, working in first jobs, and preparing to go off to college, so fire prevention training is important.

Babysitting

Many teens babysit younger children. These teens may need refreshers in how to spot hazards, especially in someone else's home. They should also get instruction on how to help a younger child escape a blaze.

Kitchens

Many teens' first jobs are in restaurants or cafes, or they may cook for themselves or their families. Offering these teens a program on kitchen fire safety may save their lives or those of others. 

Dorm Fires

Teens are future adults, and the first step in adulthood for many of them is going away to college. For many teens dorms are their first experience living away from home, and consequently, their first experience being responsible for their own space. These teens may not understand how scented candles, oil warmers, or coffee machines can present fire hazards in their dorms. A program about dorm fires would be good fare for any youth department, but especially a high school library or a college readiness program at a public library.

Programs for Adults

Adults need fire safety education just as much as children and teens. Though they may have learned to stop, drop, and roll as children, adults are likely to have forgotten much of what they learned. Programs for adults can be more direct in describing the dangers of fire to people and property than those for children and teens. 


Photo courtesy of the USFA.

New Parents

New parents are preparing to bring a new life into the world, and protecting their home from fire is particularly important with a baby. A new baby comes with many new items in the home, sleepless nights, and stress. It's important to show new parents the ways that a baby or child could change their family disaster plan. If your library has a new parents' group or a baby lap time, consider presenting a program at a meeting or handing out brochures with information. 

Parents with Young Children

Children, of course, should have specific fire safety programming appropriate to their age. But parents of young children may not know how best to keep their children safe from fires, especially in the kitchen. A program presenting information about fire safety with children to their parents could help protect those children's lives. This type of program would be a good partnership with a fire safety storytime so that the children can be occupied by the librarians and firefighters reading them a story while their parents receive fire safety information that may be too scary for children, but necessary for their parents.

First-Time Homebuyers

First-time homebuyers probably had their home inspected by a professional, but may not know what to look out for as they fill that home. They may not know how frequently to change smoke detector batteries. They may not know the kinds of hazards that could be at play in a house if they have only lived in an apartment. These members of your community have specific needs based on their life stage, so presenting a program specific to them may prevent future calls.

Seniors/Older Adults

Though seniors certainly know how to move through the world, they may not realize that certain things are fire hazards. Many also find themselves with young children in their lives again as they become grandparents and could probably use a refresher on how to be fire safe while watching those grandkids. There are also specific safety concerns for older adults. Limited mobility, disabilities, or partners and spouses with these may make fire safety and evacuation more complicated for older adults. The NFPA has a complete program, Remembering When, devoted to fire and fall safety for seniors, which is linked on the Resources tab of this guide.

Programs for Academic Libraries

Academic libraries are perfectly positioned to help launch new adults into the world. Their students are often on their own for the first time, whether in dorms or student apartments. These students can benefit greatly from college-specific fire safety information.

Dorm Fires

Many college students, especially first-year students, don't understand the dangers of things like candles, oil warmers, or coffee machines in their dorms. Partnerships with academic libraries, student or resident life departments, and local fire departments are a perfect way to teach young adults how to stay safe. Additionally, dorm buildings are larger and more complicated to navigate than students' family homes and present a specific challenge for students with disabilities. A program addressing these dangers, as well as ensuring students with disabilities know the safest accessible route out of their building, can save their lives.

Faculty Offices

Faculty members may think of their offices as their home away from home. However, they may not recognize dangers in their offices, such as combining books, student papers, and hot electronics. In addition, department office buildings may not have an intuitive layout. Students aren't the only members of your campus community, so consider presenting a program for faculty on how to prevent a fire in their office or classroom, as well as how to escape an office fire.